Track: Relaxation Sprints

Track: Relaxation Sprints

Dick Moss, Editor, Physical Education

As any track coach would agree, relaxation is a key to success in running. Relaxed runners are more efficient and fluid because they experience less resistance from antagonistic and non-involved muscles. And in events like the 400m and 800m, running at high speeds while using as litle energy as possible is a key to success.

However, telling your athletes to stay relaxed and having them actually do it are two different things. The problem is that they often don't know what it feels like to be relaxed while running.

Relaxation sprints are one way to have them experience this feeling of sprinting without physical tension.

A good place to run these drills is on the final bend of the track, starting at about 120m from the finish line. Divide the distance to the finish line into three equal sections of 40 metres each by placing a cone at trackside to indicate the beginning of each section.

Students will run each section at a different speed. The first section will be fast - 90 to 99% of full speed.

When they reach the second section, instruct them to focus on running as physically relaxed as possible while maintaining their speed. A cue word you might try is to "fast-float."

Finally, in the last section, have them duplicate the feeling and speed they had in the first section, and instruct them to feel the difference between that and running relaxed. In fact, there should be little change in speed in this section, even though they may feel more tense.

Track: Relaxation Sprints

Critical Points
The tendency of your runners will be to slow down when they hit the middle, "relaxed" section. It may take several attempts before they learn to run at the same high rate of speed while in a relaxed state.

Be sure to instruct your runners to concentrate on how they feel when running fast but relaxed.

They can later refer to this feeling during races. For example, you could tell your 400m runners, "Remember that relaxed feeling you had when doing relaxation sprints? That's how I want you to feel down the back-straight today."

Timing Duration and Recovery
This drill should be performed near the beginning of workouts when your athletes are still fresh and more likely to learn. And give them a full recovery between repetitions.

You can perform a pre-determined number of repetitions (i.e. 2 sets of 3 repetitions with 10 minutes recovery between sets), but it's always best to stop the drill if your runners begin to slow down.

Dick Moss, Editor, PE (Dick Moss is the Head Coach of the Laurentian University Women's Track and XC Teams and the founding coach of the Track North Athletic Club in Sudbury, Ontario).

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